Belfast Telegraph

A magic night for the Lyric’s rebirth

By Grania Mcfadden

Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Tuesday, May 3, to Sunday, June 5, 7.45pm

At last the new Lyric Theatre is flinging open its doors for its very first production — The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

The £18m theatre on Belfast’s Ridgeway Street has been running what it describes as a “series of soft openings” with smaller events in the run-up to this weekend’s big opening. But this is the grand premiere we’ve all been waiting for — if not quite red carpet, definitely a red letter day.

And, while the great and the good gather at this breathtaking new theatre, behind the scenes director Conall Morrison and his cast of 19 actors will be preparing for the performance of a lifetime, retelling Miller’s story of the Salem witchcraft trials.

Young Abigail Williams wants revenge after she is spurned by her lover. John |Proctor, her seducer, becomes the unwitting hero as Salem and its inhabitants spiral out of control. The story is set in a society riven by madness, suspicion and Godlessness, where accusers and panic-stricken innocents are bound together. Fingers point, tensions rise and blood boils.

Morrison points out that The Crucible was never simply about events in Salem — nor just an allegory to the McCarthyism which swept America in the 1950s. It is, he said, “a play about hysteria breeding hysteria, fear breeding fear and paranoia breeding paranoia. It’s about extremism and how it catches like fire”. And so you can see its relevance to the Northern Irish political landscape.

Patrick O’Kane heads the cast as John Proctor. He was last seen at the Lyric in the title role of Hamlet, also directed by Morrison. He’s thrilled to be playing such an important role in the rebirth of the theatre.

Meanwhile, Alan Stanforth (above) plays the merciless Judge Danforth, while Kerry actress Aoife Duffin, winner of the Best Actress Award at Dublin Fringe Festival a couple of years ago, will play the part of Abigail Williams. Also appearing are Lalor Roddy, Julia Dearden, Niall Cusack, Roma Tomelty and Frankie McCafferty in what promises to be a night to remember.

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